The First and Last Likeness

The Bible is filled with amazing “Firsts” and “Lasts.”

The first likeness in the Bible is Man being made in the likeness of God.

Ge 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

The last likeness in the Bible is God (in the flesh, i.e., Jesus Christ) being made in the likeness of Men:

(Speaking of Christ) Php 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

There are 26 other verses with likeness in-between those.

There are many such “bookends” in Scripture. This first and last likeness mirrors the fact of the first man bringing death, and Jesus bringing life (Romans 5:17, and the whole chapter), and is painted plainly here:

1Co 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

What a wonderful “Last Thing.”

The Path, the Light, the Faith of the Walk

Psalms 119:105  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

When walking a path in the dark with a lamp, only a few feet in front of you is lit.  There is a path all the way down, but nevertheless, that lamp only shows you a little bit in front of you.

To see what’s beyond that little bit, you have to walk forward with the light you have.

That is obedience. That is faith.

With each new step, new things are illuminated.  They were always there. Some people can see further down the path than others, but always, most of it is not visible without stepping forward in faith with the little lighted path you have.

On my wall is a page.

On my wall is a 400 year-old page from a book.

Page from an original 1611 first edition
Page from an original 1611 first edition of the King James Bible

It is a page containing words God has seen fit to magnify above his very name. These words were printed by Robert Barker on paper made from old clothing. This page on my wall, printed with words from God, magnified by God above his name, was literally worn by someone over 400 years ago, perhaps as a shirt, some pants, or maybe this page contains the remnants of many shirts and many pants worn by many people. Those remnants were ground into paper and adorned with words given by the creator of the universe.

The words on this page were given by God to a king of Israel named David, about 2,530 years ago and about 3,485 years after God gave Adam the breath of life.

The words on this page are alive. No, you can’t tell by looking at the ink. You can’t tell by looking at the fibers of the paper, fibers that once made up clothing for English citizens over 400 years ago. But, I tell you, I testify to you, dear reader, that the words on this page are as alive as you are. I can tell when I read them. I can tell when they comfort me; console me; make me feel joy; and surely enough, I can tell that these words are alive when they convict me and show me how unworthy I am to even cast my gaze upon them.

On my wall, in a frame, is a 400 year-old page from a book.

For hundreds of years after the words on this page were given by the Holy Spirit through David, careful Hebrew scribes diligently copied each word, exactly as it appeared, being used by God to preserve them from generation to generation.

Could I have done such careful, honorable service as they, over two millennia ago? I would need parchment made of skin only of clean animals, and I would have to sew them together with string, also made from clean animals. I would have to take care not to write columns less than 48 or more than 60 lines. I would have to prepare my ink according to a strict recipe from which I could not waver. I could not use my memory, no matter if I had memorized an entire chapter or merely one line. To copy from memory would taint the entire manuscript, and I would have to destroy it. I would have to read aloud each word and each letter as I copied them, one by one, again not by memory but only by sight. When I came to the word “God,” I would then carefully set my pen down, go, and wash my entire body before I proceed. These words are living, and I know it; I must not contaminate the name of my God in my work. When my work is reviewed, one mistake on a sheet of paper would require the entire sheet to be destroyed and rewritten. Should I err three times on a page, the entire manuscript would be destroyed. In my work, I would come to the last book of Moses, and begin to copy: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…” I tremble. When I am complete, another verifies my work, counting each letter. Should he find that I have added a letter, or left one out, or should he notice one letter touching another or not formed exactly, my work shall be for naught and I must start again.

And what of the saints since Calvary? What of the ones, like Tyndale, who were killed for merely translating the words into a common language? Could I have been as he, burned in a prison yard at the end of his earthly life after being betrayed, saying only: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!”

On my wall, in that frame, on that page, in letters I can still read quite clearly, and in words that sound no different than they did 400 years ago when they were translated into English, I read:

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. “

Yes, reader, the letters look a little different than they do in today’s print—a lowercase letter S looks like f, for example. But when I pronounce each word aloud, they sound exactly the same.

These words appear under the heading “P S A L. CXXXVIII”—Psalm 138. The words are from the second verse.

I sometimes wonder: are other pages of the book from which mine is taken on someone else’s wall? To whom did these words speak over the last 400 years, after they came off Robert Barker’s printing press in 1611? Surely there was some use or damage rendering other parts of the book unusable, or this page would never have been separated from the others. Who read from this page in church? Or in whose house did it sit, ready to illuminate whenever a reader desired?

How many readers in four centuries looked at the same page I look at, reading the same verse I read, amazed at just what it means that God has magnified his word above all his name?

Psalm 119:140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

(Verse references: John 6:63; Romans 3:2; Psalm 12:6-7; Deuteronomy 4:2; Psalm 138:2; Psalm 119:140.)

What about “forgiving yourself?”

I was asked today what to tell someone who says that they know God has forgiven them, but they can’t “forgive themselves.”

So, I did a Bible study, looking out all of the forms of the word “forgive.”

The concept of “self-forgiveness” is not found anywhere in the Bible.

The word “forgive” and its forms (forgiveness, forgivenesses, forgiveth, and forgiving) appears 70 times in 62 verses.  It is always about someone forgiving a party who has done them wrong, or God forgiving a sin.  (Or not!) Not a single time can I find “forgiveness” to refer to someone forgiving themselves of something.

And this makes sense.

Our sins — particularly our sins against God — are for God to forgive:

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

There is no “self-forgiveness.” Believers have forgiveness in Christ, from the only one who can bestow such forgiveness.

And we are, of course, to forgive others:

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

I suppose that when someone feels the need to “forgive themselves,” and can’t, they are really experiencing unresolved guilt. To me, the answer to that is to recognize that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. Remorse is good. Holding on to guilt is not.

God forgave you. Whether or not you feel like you can forgive yourself doesn’t measure up to anything against that.

The Blessing of Quietness

Quietness. It is a blessing to be desired above riches, friends, parties, and gatherings.

Isaiah 32:17-18 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife. (A house full of sacrifices is a house full of feasts of meat, as a portion of meat offerings were given to the priests. See Leviticus 2:3 and 7:31.)

Ecclesiastes 4:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.